Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Soul and Sophie

The Editor was kind enough to send me another picture of Sophie, the most popular dog on the internets, this time a candid shot of Sophie celebrating Christmas. Looks to be having a fine time.

I hope you have the time and the good fortune to have a most Merry Christmas. I'm sure that Sophie wishes the same for you ... well, maybe she simply hopes for a daily abundance of tasty foods and a comfortable spot to sleep.

So the best Christmas wishes to one and all, and a special bonus to go with the photo - a short but very soulful collection of Christmas tunes. There is a certain quality to many holiday songs which the selection below tries to preserve and I hope you enjoy it.

SeeqPod Music beta - Playable Search

Camera Obscura - Dark Knight and Hellboy Trailers; Letter to Hollywood;

Christmas 2007 is almost here, but movie fans have some nifty extras this weekend which point to high expectations for Summer 2008. First, the newest Batman movie, "The Dark Knight" finally has a preview clip that looks pretty awesome, which you can watch by clicking here. Heath Ledger's turn as the Joker has had the internet buzzing all year long and the preview shows he may steal the show next summer.

Another comic book movie for 2008 is also a sequel - "Hellboy 2". Director Guillermo del Toro has again captured the look and feel of Mike Mignola's comic. The preview is below:

del Toro and actor Ron Perlman are also working on a big screen version of H.P. Lovecraft's "At The Mountains of Madness" to be released in 2010.

An open letter to television producers:


American network television will die and roll into a grave made of stupid game shows if the current writer's strike continues for much longer. Some of you welcome such an event, as such shows have been gaining control of the airwaves in recent years.

To halt this slide into mediocre and bland programming, I urge you to do the following:

Hire me to write for your shows.

I'm willing to write for a mere $10,000 for each half-hour sitcom and $20,000 for an hour-long drama. No health care benefits, no residuals, no extra fees. This is a straight-up cash for scripts deal here.

It isn't that I am anti-union. But at this point in my life, I doubt I will ever be a member of the WGA and I could really use the money. I have watched TV for much of my life and am confident I can create material for any genre you wish. I know I cannot write for every show currently on the air, but I can likely find at least half a dozen other writers who will work for the same deal and we'll all make television history together.

Heck, we've all had ideas that Hollywood ended up taking.

For a mere $50,000 I will write a pilot movie for a series. Here's a sample of a show which would attract huge audiences: "The Country Doctor Detective" -- a brilliant young surgeon from Manhattan is forced to move to the Appalachian Mountain region to escape the crime family he testified against in court, and soon learns that he has a knack for using forensic science to solve crimes. Soon, with the help of humorous country characters and sidekicks, he starts a detective agency staffed with tough but lovable female bounty hunters while bringing quality healthcare to impoverished rural America. (Two spinoffs are already here - the clueless crime family trying to blend into the Southern culture and the tough but lovable female bounty hunters show.)

Something for younger viewers? How about "Game Over" -- a rag-tag group of young teens decide to leave their dysfunctional families behind and travel the world competing in videogame contests, earning big bucks and exploring the wacky gaming and sci-fi/fantasy/comic book convention world and when they aren't gaming, they play a battle of wits and challenges with each other as they learn about life, romance, rock music and keepin' it real.

I have more. (And yeah, if ANYTHING like the two shows mentioned above appear on TV or movies, I will sue you to death.)

Like I said, this is a strictly cash for scripts deal, and I am sure you will find that my friends and I can fill hours of programming with the same quality currently available.

I await your calls and emails.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Without Restraint

"He's out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct." (via)

That's the quote that popped into my head after reading about yet another case of military contractors in Iraq accused of criminal acts.

This time it's allegations of a gang rape so brutal the victim's breast implants ruptured and a coverup of the allegations. (Not only the contractor, KBR, is involved, but also the State Dept and the Justice Dept.) How disgusting, how illegal must events become before decisive action is taken?

More and more evidence and reports arrive in a steady supply of contractors who have somehow been given the ability to act with no rules, no oversight, no accountability, no boundaries -- all in the name of bringing Democracy to the Middle East. There are currently 70 open and active investigations regarding fraud and abuse in contracts for the war in Iraq.

Newly invented security firms, like Blackwater, and longtime US corporations, like Halliburton and KBR, are among the players in a game where billions in tax dollars flow to them with little attention given to what, if any, objective is sought.

Documentary films like "Iraq For Sale" made the point long ago.

Legislative efforts, like the War Profiteering Prevention Act, are in limbo and await approval.

On Wednesday, Congress approved another round of spending for the war - though it was less than half of what the president had asked for.

Congressman David Obey commented that long-lasting change and correction will occur when Americans: "elect more progressive voices to the United States Senate" and "elect a president with a different set of priorities."

Conservatives who ferociously bellow about fiscal and moral values should be leading the charge to eradicate wanton lawless behavior by US companies bilking the taxpayers of billions, and smothering the US foreign policy in slimy behavior. But they are not. Voters who ignore that failing will once again endorse behavior without restraint.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Taco Johns and Toxic Typists

Perhaps worse than the incident reported by WBIR-TV of a Morristown man working at Taco Johns who is alleged to have place pubic hair into a policeman's taco is the tsunami of typing monkeys commenting on the story.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Limbaugh' s Lessons In Nonsense Rhetoric

I happened to read one of the 'daily updates' which talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh provided recently, and realized it was a fine example of how one could use nonsense, wild conjecture and pop culture mythology as a substitute for facts and information to score emotional points.

He's a pro at this gambit, has been for years, and nothing I could ever write on this humble but lovable blog will ever alter his status or influence. Still, the blatant nonsense and witless argument is so obviously deluded, it's as if he decided to plop down a goofy premise and defy anyone to challenge it.

Here is the passage:

2007-12-18 05:56:25 Now, this theory of mine based on this Drudge picture of Mrs. Clinton, with the headline: "The Toll of a Campaign." Now, it could well be that that's a sympathy photo, too, to make people feel sorry for how tough the campaign trail is. Now, I want to preface this by saying I know it's going to get out there. Media Matters is going to get hold of this and they're going to take it all out of context. We can expect that. It's a badge of honor when this happens, but for the rest of you, I want you to understand that I am talking about the evolution of American culture here, and not so much Mrs. Clinton. It could be anybody, and it is really not very complicated. Americans are addicted to physical perfection, thanks to Hollywood and thanks to television. We know it because we see it. We see everybody and their uncle in gyms. We see people starving themselves. We see people taking every miracle fad drug there is to lose weight. We see guys trying to get six-pack abs. We have women starving themselves trying to get into size zero and size one clothes; makeovers, facials, plastic surgery, everybody in the world does Botox, and this affects men, too. As you know, the haughty John Kerry Botoxed his wrinkles out during the campaign.

There is this thing in this country that, as you age -- and this is particularly, you know, women are hardest hit on this, and particularly in Hollywood -- America loses interest in you, and we know this is true because we constantly hear from aging actresses, who lament that they can't get decent roles anymore, other than in supporting roles that will not lead to any direct impact, yay or nay, in the box office. While Hollywood box-office receipts may be stagnant, none of that changes the fact that this is a country obsessed with appearance. It's a country obsessed with looks. The number of people in public life who appear on television or on the big screen, who are content to be who they are, you can probably count on one hand. Everybody's trying to make themselves look different -- and in that situation, in that case, they think they're making themselves look better. It's just the way our culture has evolved. It's the way the country is. It's like almost an addiction that some people have to what I call the perfection that Hollywood presents of successful, beautiful, fun-loving people. So the question is this: Will this country want to actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?

First, the sentence
"Americans are addicted to physical perfection, thanks to Hollywood and thanks to television. We know it because we see it." is an astonishingly ignorant viewpoint which avoids contact with all of human history.

Another absurd leap of logic - aimed at women in general, whom Limbaugh apparently loathes or fears - arrives with this comment: "... women are hardest hit on this, and particularly in Hollywood -- America loses interest in you." While there may be a point to be made that "youth" has an advantage over "age" in pop culture, that is not the point he is making - which seems to be instead something along the lines of "I hate women and Hollywood."

He goes on to say that his fractured nonsensical premise is not just a factual concept, but forms a basic construct of society which he deems Evil in and of itself: "It's just the way our culture has evolved. It's the way the country is."

And all of the comments are truly just a preface of sorts to say one thing: "I hate Hillary Clinton, because she is female, she is empowered and she does not fit my model for what women are good for."

What's the old saying? If you can't blind them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit?

The commentary is also a sterling example of The Chewbacca Defense.
"That does not make sense! But more important, you have to ask yourself: What does this have to do with this case? Nothing. Ladies and gentlemen, it has nothing to do with this case! It does not make sense! Look at me. I'm a lawyer defending a major record company, and I'm talkin' about Chewbacca! Does that make sense? Ladies and gentlemen, I am not making any sense! None of this makes sense!

Secrecy, Gifts Ok'd For Sullivan Commission

A staggering endorsement of secrecy and influence peddling got the green light this week in upper East Tennessee government. Existing Open Meetings law was snubbed and a dubious Ethics Policy was embraced by the Sullivan County Commission in their last meeting.

The governing body first approved an odd change to their Ethics Policy, wherein a subjective test by the elected or appointed government official will determine if a gift creates any conflict. Sullivan County Attorney Dan Street said the policy is based entirely on a gift receiver's opinion:

One commissioner offered the following description of the new policy’s approach to gifts, and no one said he was wrong: “An individual still makes the decision based on their own standards.”

Street said the policy would be hard to enforce with such a subjective measure.

“You could have someone receive a $10,000 car and stand right in front of you and say it didn’t influence them,” Street said."

As if an elected official would report receiving a gift which made them alter their votes or actions. This terrible idea gets adopted as legal policy??

The commission also approved a resolution supporting less oversight of officials and more chances for larger numbers of office holders to meet secretly to debate and decide on policy.

"[The Commission voted to]
say Sullivan County supports changing the law so that members of any elected body could meet and talk about public policy in private as long as there is no quorum present. A quorum of the 24-member Sullivan County Commission, for example, is a simple a majority, or 13 members. The commission’s committees — which now meet in public, monthly — have only eight members each."

UPDATE: Here's an idea from Taxing Tennessee -- Using Sullivan County Commission's logic "it is quite appropriate to allow taxpayers to decide if their taxes are too high or too low."

Monday, December 17, 2007

New Blog on the Block

There's a new metablog on the block, via WBIR-TV and Katie Allison Granju, titled

I like them already ... especially since this humble yet lovable blog is featured in their blogroll.

Thanks, Katie. I'll add a link on my blogroll too. We internets folk is friendly that way.

State Needs Paper Trail for Voting Machines

I had a post, albeit brief, on a study calling for the state's election commissions to adopt the use of voter-verified paper audit trails for voting machines, and posted it about one minute later on TennViews than a post on the same topic from R. Neal.

His post was far better, and I suggest you read his, right here.

The only points I wanted to raise on the topic are:

Having qualified poll workers is regarded as a challenge in over half the counties in Tennessee?

Is there a remedy for the lack of participation and interest in voting?

Has the majority simply plugged into electronic solutions to measure and count votes for elected offices and discarded the value of educating each generation of the workings of the election process itself?

Weekly Roundup of Tennessee Bloggers

Your weekly roundup of "the best and brightest" of Tennessee bloggers from TennViews:

• 10,000 Monkeys and a Camera: The Myth of "Curing" Homosexuality, bonus: excellent Friday creature

• Andy Axel: The view is exhausting

• BlountViews: Mayor attacks local paper, again, also doesn't like Russian student/cultural exchange program

• Cup of Joe Powell: More on the AT&T statewide cable franchise bill

• Enclave: Tennessee should ban pre-payment penalties, plus Asterisks

• Fletch: Friday bird blogging, plus CNBC's Mr. Drysdale

• KnoxViews: Homeschooling for religious reasons. plus Anatomy of a toxic radioactive plume (at Facing South by way of KnoxViews)

• Lean Left: Financial incentives that discourage pharmaceutical research, plus: Good argument against FISA immunity

• Left Wing Cracker: Dems in Congress: Dance with who brung'ya

• Loose TN Canon: Why pop music sucks

• NewsComa: Savage political season

• Pesky Fly: Harry on hold, plus: Remembering Ike

• Progress Nashville: If the Tennessee Lottery ran elections, plus The failure of privatization

• Resonance: Shared sacrifice, plus House protects Christmas

• RoaneViews: Tax exemptions, good and bad

• Russ McBee: ORNL data theft and me plus, Theme of the day: contempt

• Sean Braisted: (at TennViews) Sumner Dem v. Diane Black

• Sharon Cobb: The only thing the Democrat Iowa caucus will predict is who won't be president, plus Obama's Nashville HQ opening

• Silence Isn't Golden: Bye bye Freddie

• Southern Beale: Dr. Frist's new spots, plus Talking Jesus Action Figure

• Tennessee Guerilla Women: New Jersey abolishes death penalty, plus Huckabee on the Canadian National Igloo

• TennViews: What reporters should be asking candidates (Pam Strickland), plus UT McNair Scholars program in jeopardy (an update)

• Whites Creek Journal: What rule of law?

• Women's Health News: Fetal mortality rates by race/ethnicity, plus Good grooming

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sunday Morning Torture

When phrases like "torture apologists" become widely used, I have to cringe.

Sadly, our current social/political discourse contains much to explain the necessity of torture in a utlitarian worldview.

Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly offered some thoughts on the concepts and uses of torture in this post and then posted a comment wherein torture is deemed acceptable.

Drum cites Paul Waldman who says:

Torture is the intentional infliction of physical or mental suffering in order to obtain information or confessions."

For myself, I would define torture a bit differently:

Torture is the intentional infliction of physical or mental suffering."

As for a 'defense' of the uses of torture, Drum points to the following:

I want our side to win. Or maybe more accurately, I don't want our side to lose....As with any other form of violence, motivation is everything. A cop shooting a murderer is not the same as a murderer shooting an innocent victim, although both use guns, and at the end, someone is bleeding and dying.

You'd be amazed at how many people find these things nearly equivalent. A leftist I know sees no difference between a Palestinian child dying from a stray Israeli bullet during a firefight, and an Israeli child dying when a Palestinian terrorist puts the barrel of a gun to the kid's forehead and blows his brains across the back wall of the child's bedroom. In his two-dimensional perception, the only important factor is that both resulted in a dead child. Avoiding true moral analysis and motivations allows him to skirt the concept of "evil," a term which makes many liberals intensely uncomfortable.

John Kiriakou said that waterboarding a terrorist stopped dozens of attacks. Dozens. Not attacks on military targets, but attacks on innocent non-combatants.

That was the motivation.

The terrorists who torture and kill our prisoners (never something as benign as waterboarding) don't do it because they need information to save innocent people. They do it because they like it, because they want to hurt or kill someone.

At some point you have to decide if a known terrorist having a very bad day (after which he goes back to a hot meal and a cot) is more of a moral problem than allowing a terrorist to blow up a building full of people.

Yes, it's good if we do it, when it's for the right reasons. So far, it's been for the right reasons. And no, it isn't good when it's done to us, for the reasons it has been done to us. Get back to me when some enemy tortures one of our soldiers in order to save innocent lives."

I suppose my question on torture is this - which does the most harm, accepting the use of torture as expedient and helpful; or maintaining the position that torture, for any reason, is morally bankrupt?

See also previous posts on this topic.